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The Press Will Face a Day of Reckoning for Their Descent Into Madness

15/08/2016 13:29 | Updated 15 August 2016

I couldn't believe my ears. Driving along listening to BBC Radio 5 live late at night and Stephen Nolan was attacking Nigel Evans, just 48 hours after the vote to leave the EU.

More specifically he was trying to pin Nigel Evans down to a specific number for immigration as Mr Evans had been on the winning side in the Referendum.

Like a dog with a bone, Stephen repeatedly asked the same question 'Give me a number', trying to elicit this specific immigration quota from Mr. Evans.

Now I'm all for holding our politicians to account; in fact, we need to do so more often and more rigorously than at present, but hounding this man was insane.

Why did Stephen Nolan think that he was going to get an answer to this question? Why did he think that Nigel Evans could even give him the answer to the question? He's not a front bench politician. He's not on any committees that could decide this matter. In fact, he just happened to be someone who supported the leave campaign and was available for interview.

Sadly this particular part of the interview has been 'clipped' by the BBC and this again is part of the problem. Perhaps because it clearly conveyed some of the anger felt in the aftermath of the referendum.

At first I dismissed this as a one off but within days we witnessed first Boris Johnson being hounded by reporters as he walked down the street, then Jeremy Corbyn who was incensed by the harassment to the point of lashing out.

Since when has this kind of behaviour been acceptable by the press? Can you imagine anyone doing this to Churchill, Macmillan, Heath, Wilson, Callaghan or even Thatcher?

What the hell has gone wrong with reporters?

There was a time when it was a respected profession; today however it appears more often in the same breath as double glazing salesmen and bankers.

I had hoped that as we distanced ourselves from the referendum result and came to terms with it then this anger would abate. Sadly, it seems I was wrong.

A month later we have the Daily Mail story about Syrian refugees on the island of Bute complaining they are now depressed because it's 'full of old people and where people come to die'. It became a hugely popular story for them and drove a lot of coverage but of course, it wasn't true.

It was a rehashed piece from an earlier interview and deliberately taken out of context to form a more 'click worthy' story. And having a deliberately provocative and hateful headline it sparked a reaction, even though the story content was less critical.

This was then swiftly followed by the mind numbing stupidity of Martin Brunt's Sky News piece in a church after the Nice Massacre, which was roundly ridiculed on Twitter with the hashtag #icouldhavekilledthemall.

There seems to be a growing sense of fear and hatred amongst a small section of society and reporters appear to have been caught up in this. Their antagonistic antics are not helping the situation; they are fueling a dangerous fire.

The freedom of the press is something that people hold dear in the country. It is a crucial part of any democracy and without it, we will find ourselves in a darker place.

But with freedom comes responsibility. Yes, hold people accountable. Yes, write stories that are of interest to the readers and yes please investigate stories that need investigation. But for crying out loud, do not pursue this angry agenda where every story needs a scapegoat.

Politicians particularly have long memories. They will remember what you are doing to them and if the opportunity arises, they will act. And history shows us that when they do it probably won't be to our benefit.

Jonathan Guy is Managing Director of Aqueous Digital

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